The 3 of us, my first sisterhood: I was 7 and 9 when Camelia and then Claudia (we called her “Nikki”) joined the family. I soon learned that sisterhood means being part of a tribe that always has your back. As we grew up together, I was reassured by what I recognized of me in them. But was also surprised by how our shared history and DNA magically produced three beautifully distinct women. I could count on their love and loyalty, no matter what. Even when we didn’t particularly like each other, but especially when we did.
The almost 400 of us – I was 15 when I arrived – attending a girls’ boarding school in the mid 1970s in upstate New York. We defied the notion that girls were no good at math, or science, or logic, or rational thought. We were young, still dependent on others in many ways, but we were part of the revolution that reshaped the expectation of what a woman’s life could be.
The 7 of us – I was 18 – in the waiting room, dreading, but also grateful for the legal availability of, our safe abortions.
The 2 of us – I was 24 – fetal-positioned in my bed the night I found my boyfriend dead on his bathroom floor from intentional cyanide poisoning. My first close brush with death. My best friend wrapped me in her arms while I cried myself to sleep. She couldn’t bear the thought of me spending that night or waking up the next morning in bed alone. She had anticipated my needs.
The 2 of us – I was 25 – after several glasses of wine, finally admitting to each other that the boss was a privileged, horny, piece of scum, and that we’d both been sexually harassed by him.
The 3 of us – I was 27 – discussing the feminist aspects of what we were being taught in law school because some of the male professors didn’t have a fucking clue, and couldn’t have cared less.
The 8 of us – I was 32 – with our infants on our laps, sharing how hard motherhood was – not at all what the Hallmark cards promised – and how we were each managing our postpartum depression. Some of us just barely.
The 6 of us – I was 37. We called ourselves “Las Mamas,” a group of mothers of young boys, discussing, during a Ladies’ Night Out over margaritas and martinis, the do’s and don’t’s of raising good men.
The 100s of us – I was 42 – at the San Francisco Pride Parade, marching amongst the rainbows with my first-ever girlfriend, wondering why it had taken me so long to join this sisterhood.
The 2 of us – I was 52. She was my lover, my life partner, my son’s step-mother. Together we wailed, heartbroken on the kitchen floor, after learning of my son’s suicide. She held me as if to not do so would result in my falling apart, which was not so far from the truth.
The 15 of us – I was 58 – knitting together, sharing jokes, cookie recipes, and the easiest way to create a cable on a sweater. But mostly sharing our stories of cancer survival.
The 10s of 1,000s of us – I was 58 – in pink pussy hats, marching against what we knew to be true, even before January 20, 2017, that this was the beginning of a toxic, patriarchal and autocratic regime, and possibly the end of the American republic.
The 20-something of us – I was 61 – gathered at the bar on Lake Merritt, getting to know each other, renewing friendships, some of us flirty, but all of us wondering when all the gathering places for lesbians started to fall off the map.
The 7 of us – I was 61 – in a writing circle in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, pouring our lives, our loves, our losses, our laments, onto the page.
The 2 of us, my mother and me, standing by Nikki’s bed as my baby sister took her last breath. I realized, as I watched my mother bow her head over my sister in defeat, and as echoes of my son’s passing reverberated around me, that death had given birth to yet another sisterhood: mothers who had outlived their children.
January 8, 2020 marked the first anniversary of Nikki’s death.